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Chapter 19 - Transnational Decadence

from Part III - Applications

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 August 2019

Jane Desmarais
Affiliation:
Goldsmiths, University of London
David Weir
Affiliation:
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art
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Summary

Arthur Symons’s ‘The Decadent Movement in Literature’ (1893) introduced decadence to English readers by insisting that decadence should be seen as ‘[t]he latest movement in European literature’, rejecting the proposition that decadence might have any exclusively national affiliation. Authors associated with decadence are ‘transnational’ in the sense that they responded to the challenges of working in a space that simultaneously ranged across nations and reached beyond the nation as an ideologically constructed marker of identity. This transnational re-orientation affected the decadents’ taste, modes of production, and individual identities. In short, decadents were aware of inhabiting a transnational field, and they knew that this very awareness formed a key constitutive element of their notoriously slippery shared identity. Indeed, the act of questioning national identity and national feeling was an important part of the decadents’ ethos of transgression. The transnational impulse was thus intimately related to decadent modes of dissent from the bourgeois habitus and sexual morality, as well as from traditionalist requirements of conventional literature.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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